Which Credit Cards Offer Insurance on Award Travel?

Something to consider when choosing a credit card is the strength of its travel insurance benefits. Frequent travellers often look to their credit cards for protection and reimbursement when something unexpected occurs on their trips, be it flight delays, baggage delays, trip cancellation or interruption, or major accidents and medical emergencies.

A widely-held belief regarding credit card insurance is that it only applies if the full cost of the trip is charged to the card. So, if you were purchasing a flight on the airline’s website, you’d have to pay for the flight using a certain card for that card’s insurance benefits to kick in.

But what happens when you redeem miles for travel? How can you take advantage of your credit card’s insurance benefits when you’re travelling on an award ticket? The answer varies from card to card, and can even be different depending now which type of insurance coverage you’re looking at.

Let’s take a closer look at credit cards that offer insurance for award travel.

In This Post

Emergency Medical Insurance: Just By Being a Cardholder

Whether or not a credit card offers emergency medical insurance is what often distinguishes the stronger insurance packages from the weaker ones.

However, what many people might not realize is that the majority of cards that come with travel medical insurance do not require you to charge the cost of the trip to the card for the coverage to kick in. 

Rather, to be eligible for medical insurance, you simply need to be leaving your province of territory of residence on a trip whose duration does not exceed a certain number of covered days. The number of covered days varies from card to card, but is usually 15–25 days if you’re below age 65, and much less if you’re 65 or older.

For example, the Amex Platinum Card’s insurance pamphlet specifies the following:

The RBC Avion Visa Infinite’s pamphlet specifies the following:

And the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite’s benefits booklet defines “trip” as the following:

As you can see, travelling outside of your province or territory of residence is all that’s required for the emergency medical insurance to kick in, and there’s no requirement for the trip’s costs to be charged to the card itself.

This is the case for almost every card out there that includes medical insurance, including the American Express Gold Rewards Card, the American Express Cobalt Card, the CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite, and the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard, amongst others.

Whether you’re taking a road trip to the next province over or jetting off to distant lands, you’re covered for any emergency medical expenses as long as you’re a current cardholder on one of these cards. Importantly, the coverage applies to your trip regardless of whether you booked your flight with cash or with miles.

For the purposes of award travel, then, whether you redeemed your Aeroplan points for a simple domestic round-trip flight, or you’ve pieced together a full-blown multi-segment trip using several different rewards currencies, you’ll be covered in the case of emergency medical assistance as long as you keep one of these premium travel credit cards open.

You’ll be covered for emergency travel insurance just by being a cardholder with a number of credit cards

Of course, make sure you carefully read the insurance pamphlet on your credit card, since there are always certain exclusions to which the medical coverage wouldn’t apply. Most often, preexisting medical conditions or undertaking risky activities will void the coverage.

Moreover, note that the coverage typically only lasts for a certain number of days on your trip, so you may still need to purchase additional insurance if you’re travelling for a longer duration. You can do this by topping-up your credit card coverage or purchasing a policy from a separate provider.

How to Choose a Travel Insurance Plan

Other Types of Travel Insurance: Use the Right Credit Card

Now, while most premium credit cards provide travel medical insurance to their cardholders regardless of whether the trip was billed to the card, the same generosity is usually not extended to other types of insurance.

To be eligible for coverage for flight delays, baggage delays, trip cancellation & interruption, or travel accident insurance, you’ll most likely need to have booked the trip with the credit card. This can be an issue for anyone who primarily travels on award tickets, as a flight that’s paid for with miles can’t really be charged “in full” to any card at all.

Thankfully, that’s where a few select credit cards on the market can fill the gap.

Aeroplan Co-Branded Credit Cards

Aeroplan co-branded credit cards extend travel insurance benefits to any trips booked using Aeroplan points, as long as the associated taxes and fees are billed to the card.

There are currently 11 Aeroplan co-branded credit cards available in Canada, issued by TD, CIBC, and American Express. 

For example, here’s what the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite’s insurance package has to say about ticket eligibility for flight delay, delayed and lost baggage, trip cancellation and trip interruption, and common carrier accidents:

And here’s the equivalent language on the American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card‘s insurance pamphlet:

As you can see, the insurance benefits on these cards will apply no matter whether you charged the full fare to the card, redeemed Aeroplan points for the ticket and charged the taxes and fees to your credit card, or redeemed a hybrid amount of Aeroplan points and cash using the Points + Cash feature.

Therefore, whether you’re redeeming Aeroplan points for a quick one-way flight or a complex trip and you want to enjoy the full insurance protection of a premium travel credit card on your trip, then it’s best to put the taxes and fees onto one of Amex, TD, or CIBC’s Aeroplan-affiliated cards.

And if you regularly travel on Aeroplan points, you might find it worthwhile to continuously keep one of these cards open for the purpose of giving yourself some peace of mind along your points-funded trips.

Credit Cards with Other Loyalty Programs

Most Canadian credit cards that have a loyalty program associated with them will typically extend their insurance benefits to travel booked through that specific points program as well. A few examples are as follows:

Therefore, whenever you’re looking to redeem one of the major Canadian points currencies for a flight, you’ll usually be able to take advantage of the insurance perks on whatever credit card is associated with that points program (which is probably the card that you had used to earn the points to begin with).

And if that plan doesn’t work out for some reason, you can always charge the remaining balance to one of the following cards as a fallback option…

Credit Cards That Cover All Reward Bookings

There are a few select credit cards that offer insurance for reward bookings regardless of the loyalty program that you book with. These include the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard, the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard, the BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard, and the National Bank World Elite Mastercard.

The insurance coverage for these cards don’t mandate that the full cost of the trip be charged to the cards, but rather only require that the “full or partial cost” is charged to be sufficient for coverage.

This means that whenever you’re redeeming any type of rewards currencies for a flight, be it with Aeroplan points, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Alaska miles, or Air France/KLM Flying Blue miles, or Ethiopian Airlines ShebaMiles, you’ll be eligible for insurance coverage with any of the above cards, since you’re fulfilling the criterion of “partial cost” in doing so.

These credit cards’ far-reaching insurance proposition is one of the reasons why you might wish to pick them up and/or hold onto them in the long term.

Consider adding a BMO or National Bank World Elite Mastercard to your wallet for insurance on reward bookings

Note that in the case of the BMO Mastercards, while the above holds true for flight delay, baggage delay, and trip cancellation & interruption, the Accidental Death & Dismemberment coverage is one exception here.

The language in this section of the insurance pamphlet specifically states that the “entire cost of the Passenger Fare(s) is charged to Your Mastercard Account”, with the additional provision that “passenger fare(s) obtained through the redemption of loyalty points earned under the Mastercard reward program are also covered”.

So, in the case of the Accidental D&D coverage, you’d be covered if you’re redeeming BMO Rewards points or Air Miles that you earned with the BMO Mastercards, but not if you were redeeming other mileage currencies. Of course, hopefully this is the one type of insurance that you’ll never have to invoke in the first place.

Conclusion

While it may initially seem that the travel insurance on your credit card requires you to pay for the flight in full using the card, thus making your life difficult if you primarily travel on points, the reality isn’t quite so bleak.

Emergency medical insurance is generally active as long as you’re travelling out-of-province and your card account is in good standing. Meanwhile, using a co-branded credit card through TD, CIBC, American Express, or BMO can usually take care of the remaining types of coverage.

I’d definitely recommend reading the fine print very carefully when it comes to a topic like insurance, since by nature it’s something that depends a lot on your specific circumstances. While it’s hopefully never needed, it can certainly make or break the trip in case something unexpected happens when you’re on the road.

21 Comments
  1. ShereYYZ YYZ

    Any comments on US cards and if there are any good ones to use when booking a reward flight.

  2. N

    Where are you seeing that the National Bank World Elite Mastercard has coverage on all award bookings? My review of the certificate of insurance doesn’t show anything

    1. Ricky YVR

      “Trip cancellation or delay (up to $2,500 per insured): In the event of a trip cancellation or delay before departure, the following expenses will be reimbursed, provided that a portion or the entire cost of the trip was charged to the account”

      1. NS

        Thanks Ricky. My error stemmed from defaulting to the car rental section, which is the only insurance type that has different conditions:

        “Covered Items and Risks
        Eligible vehicle rental by the cardholder, paid for entirely with the card or rewards points earned with the card. Coverage applies anywhere in the world except locations where this coverage is prohibited under local law or rental agency policy.”

  3. BMOGuy

    How come the BMO Cash Back World Elite isn’t covered in this? It has the same insurance coverage as the other two WE cards

    1. Shanghai - Ottawa

      What if I use air Canada gift cards for 80% of the fair + 20% on an AC cobranded Credit card. Will the insurance kick in ?

  4. MarkMTL YUL

    Should have reviewed this page before booking a flight with the 50% miles back sale with Aeroplan… Paid the remaining taxes with my HSBC World Elite, thinking I would be covered, but the definition of a Ticket is "… evidence of fare paid for travel on a Common Carrier, which has been charged in full to the Account". I guess once this is done, there is no way of turning back and charge it against another card? What if I made a seat selection (with a fee) and paid that with a TD Aeroplan card, would that work?

    1. Ricky YVR

      I doubt it Mark, as a seat selection fee isn’t part of the fare. However, if it’ll give you the peace of mind, you can still cancel for no charge and rebook under the 50% Miles Back sale right now and pay the taxes with your TD Aeroplan.

  5. BOBO

    Hmm I might be in a pickle, mostly concerning AP as I do not have any AP credit cards and have been using my AMX or Avion to pay for the leftover charges after a point redemption. In the event of a major delay/cancellation/baggage lost I guess AMX/Avion is useless, but I will have to see what the T+C state during the flight redemption process. I am hoping that covers a solution where the carrier can rebook alternate flights or cover costs out of my own pocket. Same thing with if I used a foreign rewards program like Avios or Kris since none of my cards cover those kinds of redemption for these interruptions.

    This can make things a bit messy, almost as if out of necessity I need to have an AP or BMO card just to pay for these redemption fees in order to be properly protected. I don’t even know if bank’s travel insurance programs even include interruptions via flight redemption/points bookings.

    Nicely done, def gave some serious thinking especially how it may affect my mini RTW plans.. 🙁

    1. Ricky YVR

      You can always purchase some additional trip insurance through a third-party provider like Manulife or Allianz. Might be worth the peace of mind if you don’t happen to have one of those cards at the moment.

  6. Kitty

    Do you think you still need the card active by the dates of travel for the insurance to be effective?

    1. Ricky YVR

      Yes!

  7. Derick

    I think Desjardins odyssey card series also have same effect as BMO WEMC and annual fee is less.

    1. Andrew

      The BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard is only $120 and comes with the generous insurance policy so it’s only a difference of $10 vs the Odyssey Gold.

      Furthermore the card’s insurance policy says "The fees must have been paid using the credit card." I’m not sure if this is a something lost in translation or rather a case where insurance eligibility depends if just the fees were charged to the card.

  8. Ron

    Do you know if the rental car insurance on any credit cards covers rentals where part of the total was covered by that rental company’s loyalty points?

    1. Andrew

      Hi Ron,

      Funny you should ask that, most of the insurance certificates actually have a provision for this. The majority of policies have something along the lines of "if all of the previous car rentals used to earn the rental company’s loyalty points were charged to the card, the free rental will qualify for CDW".

      What stands apart is BMO’s coverage which uses the "full or partial cost" phrase to describe eligibility. I’m not sure if the agencies charge some kind of fee to use the free rental, but if there’s at least $0.01 charged to a BMO card with CDW insurance, you should be covered.

  9. herb

    I’m wondering does all this insurance also cover your travelling companion/spouse or do they have to be using their own credit card as well?

    1. Andrew

      Hi Herb,

      Typically medical insurance covers the spouse and any dependents while interruption / cancellation covers traveling companions (so it would extend to your spouse) if the full trip is charged to the card. Many of the interruption / cancellation benefits come into effect if your travel companions become unwell and you need to adjust your trip to take care of them so it makes sense that insurances should extend.

      Your best bet is to check the insurance certificates, Ricky linked them above for the cards he covered and you should be able to find yours on the bank websites.

  10. Heather YYJ

    It’s worth noting that most of these cards are not “first-payer” and that can eat into your lifetime maximum for your regular extended health insurance (if you have it).

    1. Andrew

      Unfortunately it seems like most travel insurances sold have this clause (CAA, Blue Cross, RBC). I think the only way to avoid this is to buy travel insurance from the same extended benefits insurance company (which isn’t necessarily the cheapest option). Another good choice would be to add on travel insurance as part of extended health benefits, often times a multi-trip plan can be added on for minimal additional cost and wouldn’t affect the lifetime maximum.

  11. Mitch

    Excellent article Ricky! I’ve been bailed out by the RBC WestJet insurance for a major trip delay, 24h due to mechanical delays, the card covered the purchase of tickets on AC to get home right away. There’s nothing worse than thinking you have coverage and finding out you don’t when it matters. Great points about the BMO cards and their blanket coverage.

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